Masdar City, the sustainable urban development in the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, is set to play a key role in the global green recovery from COVID-19 as it continues to add sustainability-focused innovation and technology companies. The number of companies in the City’s free zone increased 26 percent in 2020, indicating the important role of the City and its offerings to innovation-led companies, including G42 Healthcare, whose laboratories and testing centers were central to the UAE’s pandemic response.
The figures emphasize the essential need for innovation in progressing the green transition through the development and commercialization of new technologies. Masdar City is Abu Dhabi’s only planned and approved research and development (R&D) cluster and is now home to more than 900 companies, ranging from multinationals and SMEs, to homegrown startups. These companies are developing ground-breaking technological solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, across the key sectors of energy, water, artificial intelligence, health, space, agriculture, and mobility.
“The UAE leadership has made a longstanding commitment to progressive climate action and recognizes the integral part that innovation plays in advancing the global green recovery,” said, Abdulla Balalaa, Executive Director, Masdar City. “The COVID-19 pandemic has further underlined the links between public health and climate change. Now more than ever, we see the critical importance of the green recovery. It is the only way forward to drive sustainable development, and facilitating innovation in key sectors is a fundamental aspect of this journey, one that we are helping to lead at Masdar City.
“The UAE also has in place a National Strategy for Advanced Innovation which is focused on devising innovative solutions in the health, transportation, water, environment, and space technology. This vision is at the heart of Masdar and the reason that Masdar City was developed as a ‘greenprint’ of sustainable urban living and a center for R&D, innovation and technology. The work being done by companies in Masdar City to develop transformative technologies, is not only preparing for the future, but is creating it, while simultaneously supporting the UAE’s goals of driving sustainable and positive change,” Balalaa concluded.
Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Masdar City has continued to welcome new partners, including high-tech sector drivers, the Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), which shapes the R&D strategy in Abu Dhabi, alongside its pillar entities, the Technology Innovation Institute (TII) and ASPIRE, and will continue to welcome regional and global partners in the coming months.
The ATRC joins an already impressive cluster of innovation-driven companies including: Honeywell Innovation Center, an innovation and knowledge-exchange hub designed to advance digital transformation across the oil, gas, petrochemical and infrastructure sectors; G42 Healthcare, which conducted the first pan-Arab clinical trials for an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine and has established the region’s largest and most advanced Omics Center of Excellence, which is home to a series of Omics projects; the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) – the first intergovernmental organization to be located in the Middle East; the UAE Space Agency, which made history earlier this year by sending a space craft into Mars’ Orbit, making the UAE the first Arab nation, and one of just five in the world to achieve this; the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC); and companies such as Siemens, Siemens Energy, Saint-Gobain, and Tabreed, as well as core tenant, Masdar (Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company).
Masdar City is also an active proponent of the UAE’s National Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031, which identifies the growth potential associated with AI, and has set out to establish the country as an incubator for AI innovation. This year, Masdar City welcomed the first students to the world’s first graduate-level, research-based university dedicated to the study of AI, the Mohammed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI). Masdar City is also home to a growing number of AI specialist companies contributing to a predicted $15.7 trillion boost to the global economy by 2030 and $320 billion to the Middle East economy.
Already established as a leading innovation hub in the region, together with its partners, Masdar City will continue to advance solutions in key sectors, which also support the UAE’s industrial sector in increasing its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) of AED 300 billion by 2031.
“The UAE has strategies in place that will support the development of industrial small-to-medium enterprises and enable them to play a greater role in the country’s transition to a knowledge-based economy. The City provides a very unique offering that includes education, R&D, technology, and innovation, all within a strategic base through which companies can test new technologies and build their partnerships. We are already home to more than 900 companies and we look forward to growing that number significantly over the next 10 years,” Balalaa added.
The development of startup businesses is also a key focus for Masdar City. The Catalyst, a joint venture between Masdar and bp, is the first start-up accelerator in the MENA region dedicated to sustainability. Companies operating under its incubation program include Seramic, which is developing turnkey solutions to upcycle industrial waste; Volts, which provides an in-house smart battery management system that can create its own autonomous electricity supply in a house when charged by the grid or solar panels; and sustainable skincare company De L’Arta.
Masdar recently marked its 15-year anniversary with its ‘For A Sustainable Future’ brand campaign, which is focusing on real-world examples of how Masdar City is driving innovation in the region.